Category: Coma History

Festival Celebrates Local Sitting History

By Stan Bargmeyer, news intern

The art of sitting may not be as fashionable as it once was but the past time still has a special place in the hearts of many Comatons.

Sitting will once again get its day on Saturday and Sunday April 5-6 when sitting enthusiasts from Coma and the surrounding region gather at the Coma Convention Center and Grain Elevator for the 25th annual Continuous Period of Being Seated Festival.

People sitting on a sofa watch a band play on the main stage at the Standon Calling Festival in Hertfordshire, UK Standon Calling is a small independent festival set among the hills in Herfordshire that showcases World Music, Indie Music and dance Music. It is one of the new, small and quirky boutique festivals which have become popular in the UK.

Ensconcers, chair grabbers, perchers,  plopper downers, resters, seated ones, settlers, squatters, load taker offers, and seat takers will gather for two days of sitting-related food and fun. The theme for 2016 is: Park It–Sitting in, on, and near Cars.

The festival will examine the history of sitting in and around the vehicles in Coma.

Extending back in time more than a half century to the present day, speakers will discuss the adventures and challenges involved in pioneering new sitting techniques along many of the beautiful and isolated roadways of Coma and the surrounding environs.

They also will discuss local pioneers in sitting, such as Dolores Claybottom, who made sitting-related activities fashionable 60 years before the invention of television.

Reclaimed sitting techniques will be demonstrated the local chapter of the Young Squatters as they play hours of video games, post on Snapchat or just nap.

So come enjoy a grand ol’ sitdown with your friends and neighbors.

Tickets are $20 or donate two seat cushions for entry.

And for the last time, people, no whoopee cushions allowed!

1889- “Feather War” Devastates Coma

by Coma Historian and Coma News Daily intern Stan Bargmeyer

Otto Lumpkin’s farm was an unlikely setting for one of Coma’s most notorious chapters.  It was there, amidst the fields of cabbage and stew tomatoes, a band of militant and disgruntled Buff Orpington chickens led a hasty and tragic armed revolt against Lumpkin and his family.

The birds fashioned swords out of feathers and surprised Lumpkin at dawn as he was scattering feed to the angry mob. Caught completely off guard by the uprising and fearing for his safety, Lumpkin quickly disarmed the nearly two dozen feather-wielding birds and wrangled them back to their coops.  The entire ordeal lasted nearly four minutes and left a deep scar in the human-chicken community for years.

02 22 2016 chicken

ABOVE: Artist rendering of a chicken clutching an infamous feather sword during the uprising of 1889.

While no serious injuries were reported, Lumpkin noted that several chickens brushed his boots with the feather swords, causing no pain or even slight discomfort.

Local militia were called in following the revolt to help restore order.  Several of the birds were sentenced to death and served with cabbage and stewed tomatoes that evening.  Others were forced to spend the rest of their lives in captivity.

The ordeal was given the name the “Feather War” by a local reporter who covered the incident for the Coma Daily News in 1889.  The tension between humans and chickens continued for several decades, easing slightly during World War I.

Otto Lumpkin is reported to have died in his sleep in 1910 although his death remains controversial to this day as several feathers were found near his bed.  Investigators ruled the death from natural causes by many in the community still believe his chickens played a role in his demise.

Strange Theaters Prospered, Destroyed in Coma

by Stan Bargmeyer, Coma News Daily Intern

“Going to the theater” in Coma usually means a movie or a performance by the Coma Backgate Players. But in the early 1900s, people who wanted to be entertained in Coma had a range of strange options to choose from.Perhaps it was the town’s methane boom or the once-thriving silly hat industry  that brought both prosperity and a range of curious entertainments to the region. In its heyday, Coma supported more than half a dozen theaters that featured questionable shows ranging from bovine burlesque to meat-themed vaudeville.


This giant pig, named Orwell, was the headliner at multiple comedy venues in Coma.

In fact, between 1870, when the vaudeville theater Washington Hall opened, and 1928, when the Riviera opened the town boasted at least 19 performance halls.

Washington Hall once featured Joan Crawford in the chorus line of sultry farmers years before she became one of the biggest names in motion pictures.

That venue was the first of several performance halls to burn to the ground amid the fad of fire-and-straw-dress dancing that swept the region.

Cowboy comedian Will Rogers played a one-night stand at the old Academy of Music. Then-Coma Mayor Edmund B. Jallopy was there that night, when the famed comedian started joking about how hard it was to find a decent junk yard in town after the mayor had instituted the town’s first ban, which barred all such facilities from the town limits. Rogers joked that he had always assumed Coma was a giant trash hole before coming here and was deeply disappointed to find otherwise.

At a time when there were only outhouses and barns The Dirtpile was a popular venue for up and coming musicians in Coma.

At a time when there were only outhouses and barns The Dirtpile was a popular venue for up and coming musicians in Coma.

The audience, including Mayor Jallopy, roared with laughter and Jalopy lifted his junk yard ban the next week.

The old Academy of Music, like many other venues in the town, was lost in a tragic methane mine collapse and explosion.

The Majestic Theater presented multiple shows each week and showcased the work of several actors who found fans in Coma. One was famed actor Buster Keaton. When he wasn’t entertaining theatergoers in Coma, Keaton reportedly worked at a local drugstore owned by Joe Lotus, where he “could jerk sodas and serve ice cream at a tremendous rate,” according to one Coma News Daily report at the time.The Majestic ran high-class shows for a number of years before switching to burlesque and was eventually gutted during the famous burlesque riots of 1930.

Invention of Moustache Handlebars Almost Revolutionizes Transportation

moustache handlebars


Stan Bargmeyer, Coma News Intern and Historian

Invented in Winston Montgomery’s garage in 1894, the mustache handlebars were an instant success and put Coma on the objects-made-from-human-hair map.

Montgomery, who was fascinated by using human hair to construct everything from fake beards, toupees, lollipops and headstones, believed the mustache handlebar would revolutionize transportation by making bicycles more human-like.

In a 1894 article in The National Bicycle magazine, Montgomery wrote; “I take great pride in constructing the first semi-rigid handlebars made entirely from human mustache hair.  It is my gift to the world.”

Initial sales of the handlebars were promising but quickly dried up after users complained about the flimsy nature of the device and the inability to steer the bike, which resulted in a number of accidents.

Montgomery ceased production of the mustache handlebars in 1896.  The design of the handlebars subsequently inspired a popular facial hair fashion trend.


Stan Bargmeyer, Coma News Intern and Historian

Dog Purse Invented

By Stan Bargmeyer, Coma News Intern
It’s not every day that a dog drives the fashion industry.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at their descendants but Coma’s dogs once dictated the fashion sense of the entire town.

At the turn of the twentieth century Coma was a bustling and growing town riding the brief and explosive methane production wave.

It was amid this excitement that Georges Von Peebles, a Swiss immigrant, moved to town and started making dog accessories. It started with fancy collars but soon  progressed to hats, pants, hoop skirts and parasols–all for dogs.


Georges Von Peebles knew that Mr. Sparky longed to have his own purse and other accessories.

But the most prominent canine fashion accessory developed by Von Peebles was the purse. Dogs wore it to carry various grooming supplies, snacks and, of course, money.

The accessory soon caught on with local women, who also had a need to surreptitiously carry snacks with them.

The fashion trend-setting of female dogs quickly progressed to leading roles in civil rights, aviation, and politics.

However, for complex reasons these trendsetting lady animals eventually abandoned their push against the glass doghouse and rejoined the crotch-sniffing status of their male counterparts.

Coma Pioneer Invents Disastrous Sail-Powered Aircraft Carrier

By Stan Bargmeyer, Coma News Daily intern

Powerful winds drive both ships and aircraft but together they drive destruction.
That was the painful lesson learned by Coma native and inventor Adm. Eustis Antilles when he created the sail-powered aircraft carrier in 1859.
Antilles’ innovation came in the lead up to the Civil War, which also was the waning days of sail-powered warships. A bit of a contrarian, Antilles rejected the growing concensus that steam and coal power were the fiture for ships.
And given his position as a confident and bowdy-night wingman of Navy Sec. Henry Seward, Antilles was able to push through construction of the first and only “sailcraft carrier,” the USS AirBlow.


“It was as majestic as a mountain and as graceful as a swan,” Antilles wrote in his diary about the ship.
It was only after building the ship that Navy leaders realized powered aircraft had not yet been invented. Undeterred, they tried using the ship as a landing platform for hot air balloons. Twenty-seven balloons were tangled in the sails or lost at sea attempting to land on the  ship before the last balloon’s burner ignited the ship’s sails.
Antilles wrote in his diary that the unanticipated accident “lit that bastard ship up like a Roman candle.”
After retiring to Coma, where Antilles spent his final years, the former admiral would spend years trying to perfect models of the sailcraft carrier on Lake Coma.
The model that ran over Antilles and sent him to his watery grave is still on display at the Coma Historical Society.

George Washington Invents Station Wagon

By Stan Bergmeyer, Coma News Daily intern and town historian

Although never credited by automobile historians, George Washington invented the station wagon while visiting Coma in 1762.

The invention allowed the father of our country to embark on a lifetime of road trips through all 13 colonies.


“Inventing the station wagon was really the only way Washington could allow every hamlet, burg and hovel to honestly claim ‘George slept here,'” said Jax Owen, a local auto dealer and car history aficionado. “It was also the only way he could bring the whole family. He had a large family.”

Washington also invented all leather interiors, including seats, floors and windows.


“The challenge of seeing through leather windows was well worth the fat pleasure of chilling in their mink oil-treated leatheryness,” Owen said.

Early charcoal sketches of Washington crossing the Delaware River atop a floating station wagon, were replaced by a boat in later oil paint depictions to avoid distracting from the historic military victory.

The Coma Futurists Society recently displayed one of the original charcoal depictions of the Washington Wagoneer as part of its “Future Inventions of the Past” exhibit.

“It’s unfortunate but the oil painters managed to whitewash a lot of amazing stuff out of the past,” said Micah Horncraft, curator of the Futurists Society. “For instance, did you know Alexander Hamilton invented the Ham radio?”


Of all the beds George Washington slept in throughout the 13 colonies, the one he died in is hands down the least popular among vacationing history buffs.

Rock Produced Great ‘Citizens’

By Stan Bargmeyer, Intern and Coma historian

Coma’s first rock band, the Citizens, performed it’s first concert in front of the local Elks lodge in 1952.

The band, which sang primarily about the commendable accomplishments of local public servants, was a local example of the brief respectful stage of rock and roll.


Bill “the librarian” Simmons, Russell “taxman” Crowe, Zeke “park ranger” Wallbanger, George “zoning administrator” Timmons, and Henry “dirty tongue” Jones sit together at a table after a ‘gig’.

In their biggest hit, “Resolved,” the Citizens extolled the virtues of a retiring Coma fireman.

A sample of their “hep” lyrics:

WHEREAS, his retirement follows 25 years of faithful and dedicated service to the town and its citizens;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Commission of the Town of Coma, and all members elected thereto concurring:

In recognition and appreciation of the public service of James D. Grieling as Fireman and ambulance driver with the Fire Department,

this Commission tenders its unanimous and respectful tribute by this Resolution.
this Resolution
this Resolution

The five members of Citizen, Bill “the librarian” Simmons, Russell “taxman” Crowe, Zeke “park ranger” Wallbanger, George “zoning administrator” Timmons, and Henry “dirty tongue” Jones left Coma on a 1953 world tour organized by Jones and were never seen again.